Press Release

Release Date: January 24, 2024
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

Chickasaw Heritage Series curriculum offered by the Chickasaw Nation was in the spotlight during the National Conference for Social Studies (NCSS), Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in Nashville.

About 3,500 social studies teachers from across the U.S. and Canada attended the 103rd conference, which had a theme, “Social Studies: Working in Harmony for a Better Tomorrow,” and subthemes about inclusivity, elevating local narratives and seeking partnerships beyond physical and political borders.

The conference provided an ideal venue for curriculum developers to reach a wide audience of educators. Committee members Jane Purcell, Paula Kedy and Stephanie Holt-Lucas led several curriculum trainings in 2019 and 2020 in Oklahoma, reaching more than 150 teachers from nearly 70 schools. The group was encouraged to apply to present the curriculum at the national conference.

“Early into the process of curriculum development there were discussions of presenting this information to a larger audience in a national forum,” Holt-Lucas, a former McAlester (Oklahoma) public school educator, said.

A proposal to present “Shining Light Upon Darkness: The Chickasaw Heritage Series K-12 Curriculum,” was submitted to the NCSS and was selected from hundreds of submissions.

The conference planning committee reviewed the presentation and identified the session as among the best, according to the acceptance letter.

“I believe our presentation stood out among others in large part because it originated within work being done by the Chickasaw Nation,” Holt-Lucas said.

It is also unique for a First American tribe to present at the conference, as First American studies and related topics are usually provided by teachers, university faculty or museums, according to Purcell.

Purcell, a social studies coordinator at Norman (Oklahoma) Public Schools, Kedy and Lucas led two presentations about their experience utilizing the Chickasaw Nation curriculum during the conference.
“I think the Chickasaw Nation is unique in having created such high-quality documentaries and feature films. For a teacher or instructor, it is so convenient to go online, and it’s all right there for you, and it’s available in a variety of formats,” Purcell said.

The trio also presented “Profiles of a Nation: Education and Tribal Partnership” to curriculum coordinators from across the country, district level staff and teacher leaders.
“We talked about lesson plans that we had created for three of the documentaries and feature films that the Chickasaw Nation has produced. We started off with the ‘First Encounter’ documentary and then we centered our discussion around ‘Pearl’ and ‘Montford Johnson,’” Purcell said.

The Chickasaw Heritage Series curriculum explores the history, culture and traditions of the Chickasaw people.
The materials are based on Chickasaw Nation Productions documentaries “First Encounter,” “On Top of the World: Pearl Carter Scott,” “Montford Johnson: An Original Brand” and “Bearer of the Morning: The Life of Te Ata Thompson Fisher.” The documentaries offer factual representations of Chickasaw history told from the Chickasaw perspective, while also sharing aspects of a unique and thriving culture.

The educational curriculum is designed for both elementary and secondary students, and is complete with lesson plans, reading material, discussion questions, student activities, and quizzes and reference lists.

“We tried to emphasize that it is not some publisher or some historian telling the Chickasaw Nation story, it is the Chickasaw Nation telling the Chickasaw story,” Purcell said.

The lessons are available to download at no charge at

“From the beginning of the curriculum development process, the team realized that it would be critical for the Heritage Series to be made available to as many teachers as possible,” said Kedy, a former Ada (Oklahoma) Public School teacher who now serves as an education coordinator for the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission.

“We worked for several years to implement curriculum workshops for teachers throughout the Chickasaw Nation, but having the opportunity to present at the national level made it very clear that there is a strong interest across the nation in having more access for students to learn about the vibrant history of the Chickasaw Nation,” she said.

Chickasaw Nation Department of Communications Director of Operations Shana Poe served as a tribal liaison to the teachers to help them prepare their presentation at the national conference.

“Shana and her office were just amazing, putting all the logistics together. I just so appreciate the opportunity to work with the Chickasaw Nation on the curriculum and to help publicize the wonderful materials the Chickasaw Nation has created to tell their story,” said Purcell.

The presentations received positive feedback, as did the Chickasaw Nation marketing team, which provided an informational booth during the conference and assisted more than 165 education professionals from 37 states, Puerto Rico, Canada and the Bahamas.

Of more than 300 exhibitors, the Chickasaw Nation was the only First American presence at the conference.